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World junior championship: U.S.-Russia tilt highlights Friday’s full slate on Day 4

Malcolm Subban and Canada play prior to the U.S.-Russia showdown (Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press)

You are not a bad Canadian for opting for extra sleep before studying Slepyshev.

Canada resumes action at the world junior championship early Friday, but its game vs. Slovakia is essentially the warm-up (loosely speaking given the climate in Ufa) is the matinee before the feature performance. The outcome  between Team USA and Team Russia — former Sarnia Sting teammates and still good friends Alex Galchenyuk and  Nail Yakupov going head-to-head — will give the winner a huge leg up toward a top placing in the Group B.

Canada, based on form, should be able to take Slovakia. That helps make the argument to grab more Z's in order to be more mentally alert when Canada's next two opponents play at a more reasonable hour. You never know, coach Steve Spott might call you to ask if you saw anything that can be exploited with either team's penalty kill or its defensive positioning. Every armchair has her/his day. You gotta believe.

Here is what to watch for on Day 3:

— Group B: Canada vs. Slovakia, 4:30 a.m. ET/1:30 a.m. PT (TSN)

Canada and its shutdown defence by committee will try to contain Slovakia, which has never had a regulation-time win over the Maple Leaf in eight previous tries. Russia let the gritty Eastern Europeans hang around until the bitter end before escaping with a 3-2 OT win on Day 1; no doubt Canada will look to force the issue early and make Slovakia play catch-up.

The Slovaks are a cohesive lot, which is not surprising considering 14 forwards and D-men skate for the Orange 20 Bratislava team in the Extraliga. That might mean that the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jonathan Huberdeau-Mark Scheifele trio, aka The Lockout Line, will have to work a bit harder to break down the defence than it did vs. overmatched Germany. This is all showcase of draft-year talent out of the Quebec League, since Canada boasts 17-year-olds Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon while impressive Gatineau Olympiques rookie Martin Reway is playing big minutes for the Slovaks.

— Group B: Russia vs. U.S., 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT (TSN)

If the U.S. wins and establishes itself as a bona fide gold medal threat, then all more the more reason for Canadians to resent Gary Bettman. The Yanks' goal scorers vs. Germany on Thursday, as Jesse Spector helpfully pointed out, included players from non-traditional hockey states such as Florida, Ohio and Texas. There is more where that came from.

Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones, both top-10 NHL picks, are tasked with trying to stymie Yakupov and the quick-strike Russians. The goaltending matchup is a goodie — Anaheim Ducks second-rounder John Gibson for Uncle Sam vs. Saskatoon Blades standout Andrey Makarov for Mother Russia. Team USA has the extra gear to skate with Russia, but beyond Galchenyuk, does it have the touch to bury its chances against one of the best goalies of fewer than 20 years in the world? Also, is Boston Bruins prospect Alex Khokhlachev headed back to the Windsor Spitfires after the WJC?

— Group A: Finland vs. Czech Republic, 2:30 a.m. ET/11:30 p.m. PT

Erin Nicks, who is a proud native of Thunder Bay with its high concentration of Canadians of Finnish lineage (Finneage?), has pointed out neither Nordic team will get much love from TSN programmers. It's understandable since technological limitations probably mean TSN can only set up at the arena in Ufa being used for Group B and medal-round games. But as Canadians, what we do is complain, especially since Finland and Sweden are usually teams one is interested to see.

Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Joel Armia and the Finns can take a step toward a top-two finish in the group with a win, although not having injured Miro Aaltonen hurts their chances. Were this being shown in Canada, it would be great late-night viewing back in Delta, B.C., for the friends of Czech Republic defenceman David Musil, the Edmonton Oilers high second-rounder. Musil was missed badly last season when the Czechs lost 4-0 in pool play to Finland.

— Group A: Latvia vs. Sweden, 7 a.m. ET/4 a.m. PT

These same two teams played a 9-4 game last winter in Calgary. With Sweden being depleted on defence, it is tempting to have images of the two trading goals dancing in one's head. Sweden should handle this relative mismatch and keep pace with Finland. Can Sweden, with 10 players aged 18 or younger, including Washington Capitals first-rounder Filip Forsberg and Montreal Canadiens high second-rounder Sebastian Collberg, keep fighting to the top of the group? Also, when can they show Canada how to build heated sidewalks so that snow doesn't accumulate during winter? It's a pertinent question.

Seattle Thunderbirds standout Roberts Lipsbergs scored two goals for Latvia last time vs. Sweden. Please don't be that person who jokes that he must be good since he has the strength of two guys named Robert Lipsberg. It's not insensitive, but it's just too wordy to distill down to good-joke range. Plus people's humour neurons aren't always firing that well in the morning.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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